Politicians have done many things over the years to win votes, but none more so than British lawmaker Nadine Dorries, who spent 12 days in the Australian jungle eating ostrich anus on national television.
The feisty 55-year-old has been catapulted into the public eye by her appearance on “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here”, a reality TV show where C-list celebrities compete to outdo each other at a string of stomach-churning tasks.
Dorries defended her involvement as a way to reach out to voters, but it has attracted widespread criticism, which she must face when she returns home after becoming the first person to be voted off the show this week.
She has already been suspended by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party for taking a month off from parliament, while many voters in her central English constituency of Mid-Bedfordshire are reportedly fuming.
There is speculation she might now jump ship and join the anti-European UK Independence Party (UKIP).
At the very least, her decision to sign with an entertainment management company suggests she will be appearing on TV again before long.
Meanwhile, Dorries is not thought to be returning to Britain for a couple of weeks as she waits in Australia for the ITV show to end, but has said she will be continuing her work as an MP from her hotel room.
But while her political future remains unclear, she is unrepentant, insisting that being buried in maggots and cockroaches — among other grim trials — was a valid way to reach out to millions of ordinary people.
“I think it is important that MPs realise that you need to go where the public go,” she said after being ejected in a public vote on Wednesday.
Dorries described the jungle as a “fascinating experience” that made her less “self-important”.
The divorced mother-of-three, dubbed “Mad Nad” by the tabloids even before her jungle antics, has never been a stereotypical Conservative MP.
She grew up in social housing in Liverpool and has made no secret of her scorn for Eton-educated Cameron, who she memorably dismissed along with finance minister George Osborne as “two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk”.
Dorries, a committed Christian, also sparked controversy by proposing a draft piece of legislation requiring teenage girls to be given compulsory lessons in sexual abstinence — a bill that was quietly dropped earlier this year.
One of her colleagues in the cabinet, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, admitted he would relish seeing Dorries humiliated in the jungle, saying before her exit that he would be voting on the TV show every week to keep her in.
However, the Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said she had “all the skills necessary to survive in the jungle” and suggested that when she returned home to explain her actions, “everything will be cleared up”.
Dorries is not the first sitting MP, or Member of Parliament, to take part in a reality TV show.
Six years ago George Galloway, then the only elected lawmaker for his Respect party, appeared on Big Brother where he donned a leotard and pretended to be a cat.
Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe has taken part in a TV dance show, as did former Conservative MP Edwina Currie, while former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik has been on “I’m a Celebrity” and a string of other shows.
[Image via YouTube]